RMS Catastrophe Risk Expert, Dr. Robert Muir-Wood, has spoken out against the short-term metrics used to measure progress towards the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, warning countries could fall short in their risk mitigation efforts if they don’t have proper tools to assess progress and accurately measure risks.
The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 – 2030 is a major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda, endorsed by the UN General Assembly following the 2015 Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR).
But Dr. Muir-Wood has warned that the framework’s current targets “risks being undermined by a lack of reliable metrics for how much progress is actually being made,” saying their focus on short-term snapshots of disaster data exclude risk analysis of the more infrequent but devastating catastrophic events which can kill hundreds of thousands.
And the models used to measure progress towards these targets, he cautions, produce questionable results as they compare disaster data from just two decades: 2005-2015 and 2020-2030.
The RMS risk expert said “The incidence of the largest catastrophes, such as earthquakes and floods, is hugely variable over time. You may have more than a century without incident.
“And then without warning disaster can strike, killing tens of thousands of people in minutes, as in the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami. Simply comparing data from two decades will give invalid results.
“This could cause complacency in those countries which were spared significant disasters at the time the Framework assessment is made, leading to a potentially dangerous failure to invest in disaster risk reduction,” said Dr. Muir-Wood.
Instead of the methods currently in use, he advocates going back to risk models used by governments in the 1990s – which use a timeframe of tens or hundreds of thousands of years to take large scale disasters into account.
“These models combine the scientific understanding of perils such as earthquakes and hurricanes, with sophisticated statistical modeling techniques that process detailed data on the people, buildings and economic activity within that territory,” he explained.
The models can also be continuously updated to reflect the latest disaster risk mitigation strategies and give an accurate depiction of progress made against real disaster risk.
In addition, he suggests introducing disaster risk auditing to assess a country’s resilience, which would be repeated every few years using the sophisticated long-term assessment methods; “This should be undertaken according to agreed international standards as an independent audit, in the same way that rating agencies audit countries and cities for their creditworthiness.
“This will reveal the level of national or city preparedness without having to suffer a disaster. It will hold political leaders to account for making substantive progress in improving resilience, and so reducing disaster risk.”
Poorer countries, he said, could give be given international aid to fund the audits, giving developed nations opportunities to “stimulate tangible progress in building disaster resilience among poorer nations.”
Dr. Muir-Wood’s comments come ahead of the upcoming United Nations Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Cancun, Mexico, where he plans to offer his insights to the member countries meeting to show how much progress they’ve made in disaster risk mitigation against the Sendai Framework.